We live in an incredibly fast-paced, competitive, and often turbulent time, with everything changing at warp-speed. I can barely get through a day without a software update or new coffee flavour being pitched at me! As humans, we are made to adapt and change, but many still prefer to resist it, at least at first. Frankly, the alternative of “staying put” quickly morphs into “falling behind”, and that rarely ever works well for anyone.
Being flexible requires us to be open-minded, and to think of opportunities instead of roadblocks. Life throws us curveballs every day, and it’s up to us to adapt to those challenges and come up with new ideas, shift things around, and make new plans. That is how we become innovators. Think of some of those great inventions, from penicillin to Post-it Notes, that arose from accidental, unexpected occurrences where someone had the foresight to say “Hey, what if we…”, well, you know the rest. Those four words can be very powerful. Just think about it next time something comes up that you didn’t expect that has turned your day or your task around. Just start saying “Hey, what if we…” and you’ll be impressed with the great ideas and insights that arise. That’s how flexibility works, and it starts with being positive.
Then we have the “nay-sayers” …
We all know people who are set in their ways, stubborn, or just plain uncompromising. In today’s unpredictable world of advancing technology and globalization, think about how those people will fare; it’s likely not going to be very easy for them. The nay-sayers are the ones who lose out on opportunities and quickly become as obsolete as a rotary phone. Sure, they might still function, but they don’t have a “wow” factor, and they slow others down.
It’s not an option to just stop dead in your tracks every time something doesn’t work, gets changed, cancelled, or moved. The people who complain or whine about change can negatively impact those around them, and cause undue stress for everyone. Often, inflexibility is the result of fear or anxiety. In those cases, it’s OK to say, “I don’t know how to use this machine – I don’t want to look stupid”, or “If I have to work evenings I’m worried about daycare for my kids”. Those are problems that can be worked through with a variety of options and solutions that will eventually work out. However, by not getting on board with a positive attitude, it’s likely that many individuals will alienate the very people who could help them through that change.
Flexibility is more than adjusting
Every time we adapt to the things life throws our way, we move closer to achieving our goals. We emerge from each situation as a winner, not because it necessarily worked out perfectly for us, but because we kept an open mind and took a risk. That’s how we grow, learn and advance. Because of our flexibility, we can reach our goals more swiftly because we understand from the onset that it may take a few different turns or twists to get there than originally planned. It doesn’t mean we are indecisive, or uncommitted, in fact, it’s usually the opposite. It’s because we are committed, that we don’t let the obstacles stop us cold. We look for alternatives.
There have been times in my life when I was too rigid or took far too long to respond, and as a result, I lost out on some great opportunities. The next time a big change presents itself, try these simple steps:
• Find out more about the change; ask lots of questions
• Explore the various options and be open-minded to anything and everything – say yes!
• Look for the positives – however small – and encourage those around you to be positive as well
Wherever you are at with your personal or career goals, all the ambition, connections, money or drive won’t get you there without a positive, flexible outlook. There will be obstacles at every turn, that’s just the way life is, but how we respond to those obstacles is what truly defines us.
“A tree that is unbending is easily broken.” Lao Tzu